Tuesday

1st Dec 2020

LuxLeaks source appeals for EU whistleblower laws

  • Deltour in Brussels on Monday (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

Antoine Deltour, who faces prison after showing how Luxembourg cost the EU billions in lost tax revenue, has appealed for better protection for whistleblowers.

He told the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday (1 June) that he’s “proud of what has resulted from my case … I see it as recognition for my decision to go public”.

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But he added that other “whistleblowers are [being] discouraged by [the] consequences I’m undergoing”.

Luxembourg has one of the most advanced whistleblower protection regimes in the EU, according to the Berlin-based NGO Transparency International (TI).

Its law on “strengthening the means to fight corruption” gives cover to public and private sector employees who report criminal activity to their superiors or to Luxembourg authorities.

But it doesn’t cover people who report unethical behaviour or who leak to media or civil society.

"You are protected if you reveal illegalities. The [tax] rulings that I disclosed aren’t illegal, even though they go against the public interest. This is why I went to the press and not to the authorities”, Deltour said.

The former employee at PwC, an audit firm, five years ago passed 28,000 internal files to a French reporter.

The files, published in December by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, show that the Grand Duchy let hundreds of big companies pay almost no tax in sweetheart deals, known as “comfort letters”, which also resulted in lost revenue for fellow EU states.

The revelations triggered a European Commission probe and a European Parliament special committee on “LuxLeaks”.

They also shamed EU commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, a former Luxembourg PM.

Luxembourg prosecutors, the same month, indicted Deltour on charges which could see him jailed for five years and fined €1.25 million.

An aide to Luxembourg’s interior minister, who asked not to be named, told EUobserver on Monday the case isn’t politically motivated because the Duchy’s judiciary “has total independence … there’s full separation of powers”.

But Molly Scott Cato, a British Green MEP on the LuxLeaks committee, the same day accused Luxembourg of “state oppression of a person acting in the public good”.

Alain Lamassoure, the French centre-right committee chair, also said the EU should take action on whistleblowers.

The parliament support is part of a wider pro-Deltour campaign, endorsed by leading NGOs, academics, and journalists, as well as Edward Snowden, the US intelligence leaker who failed to get EU asylum.

A commission spokesman told this website the bloc’s new anti-money laundering directive, which shortly enters into force, includes some protection.

He noted that a second bill, on trade secrets, which is still under discussion, also includes protection.

But he added that “criminal law is basically a member state competence”.

Carl Dolan, the head of TI’s Brussels’ office, said there’s “very uneven protection for whistleblowers around the EU”.

He added: "The Deltour case shows that the kind of issues you might want to reveal have an impact beyond one country’s borders".

“There should be a minimum level of protection around the EU because of the cross-border impact of, for instance, tax decisions. But governments are very reluctant to move forward on this”.

LuxLeaks trial to be whistleblower showcase

The trial of Antoine Deltour, who leaked documents on Luxembourg's sweetheart tax deals with big firms, will be used by campaigners and politicians to push for a law to protect whistleblowers.

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